KING CITY — As the New Year approaches, the staff at South County Newspapers looked back on the past year and compiled a list of the top stories that defined the community in 2017. Here is our Year in Review for King City:



Wreaths Across America

King City recently celebrated Wreaths Across America for the first time as volunteers placed 82 wreaths on headstones at the King City Cemetery.

Sue Miller from the Ladies VFW Auxiliary put together the event, and said she was inspired when she saw a picture of the event at Arlington National Cemetery.

Downtown Streetscape plan approved

King City Council approved a conceptual plan for the city’s streetscape project that city leaders hope will improve the pedestrian environment and the visual quality of the downtown area.

City officials started planning in August and gained resident and business owner feedback during two public workshops.



School district declared ‘Safe Haven’

South Monterey County Joint Union High School District is now a “Safe Haven,” a designation that protects students’ records from questions about immigration status.

“In taking this action, we are saying as a school district we are not going to release that sort of information or report somebody for deportation,” Superintendent Daniel Moirao said. “Our campuses are safe havens, not only safe from physical things but it’s a safe place to come register and take advantage of the programs we have.”

City pays $1.2M to towing scheme victims

The City of King agreed to a $1.2 million settlement in the case of a former police sergeant who took part in an illegal towing scheme targeting low-income Hispanics.

The settlement was approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler and gave more than 229 victims about $3,902 each.



Fort Hunter opens new training complex

The base at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett recently added five new building structures to make up its Operational Readiness Training Complex and a track field. 

The project has been under construction for five years, and includes a battalion headquarters, three barracks buildings and headquarters for six companies. The barracks buildings can house approximately 800 troops, and a maintenance yard for vehicle repair lies within walking distance.

Miss Salinas Valley Fair 2017 crowned

Rena Escobar of Salinas showed off her personality, horse riding skills and poise to win the honor of Miss Salinas Valley Fair.

Escobar won the title at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds Pavilion building.



Council to form its own energy program

King City Council has decided to look outside of Monterey Bay Community Power and consider the feasibility of establishing an independent community choice energy program.

The Community Choice Energy (CCE) or Aggregation (CCA) becomes the electric power provider and PG&E continues to transmit and bill the power. Customers can opt out of the program and continue to receive their power directly from PG&E.

New farmworker housing opens

The Meyer Farmworker Housing held its grand opening, and in the coming weeks will house 216 workers in the space on North First Street and Broadway.

Using the vacant Meyer Tomatoes building came about after another grower decided not to be involved in the project for farmworkers, and owners David Gill, Steve Scaroni and Mike Hitchcock took over the building and project, which has been ongoing for the past three years due to the high demand of farm labor and not enough workers.



Junior Livestock Auction raises $2.1M

The Salinas Valley Fair Junior Livestock Auction included the sale of 950 animals and raised $2.1 million with the fair’s heritage animal selling for $371 per pound.

This year’s Salinas Valley Fair Heritage Foundation scholarship winner was Matthew Umbarger, a senior at King City High School.

The Junior Livestock Auction brings together not only auction buyers from throughout the Salinas Valley, but also FFA and 4-H members from Gonzales to King City and from Bitterwater to Templeton.

Warm welcome for new superintendent

Dr. Brian Walker begins his appointment July 1 as South Monterey County Joint Union High School District’s new superintendent, taking over for Dr. Daniel Moirao, who will retire after five years of service as superintendent.

The Governing Board ratified Walker’s contract at its Greenfield High School meeting on May 24. Walker credits Moirao’s student performance improvement as a draw. Moirao is proud of his “Bring on the Pride” legacy, with test scores and graduation rates having improved considerably since he took over.



New market opens

“The Kitchen,” a new open-air market, officially opens, running every Wednesday afternoon at the JV Automobiles parking lot.

Organizer Tina Lopez said vendors will be on site to offer a variety of food, art, plants and other items in addition to music and live entertainment. The Kitchen fills the void left by the King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture’s Farmer’s Market, which was discontinued this year due to a shortage of funds and volunteers.

Local educators earn top honors

A pair of educators from King City Union School District were recently recognized by the Monterey County Office of Education for their outstanding service and dedication to their students, staff and community.

Ana Alvarez, a third-grade teacher at Santa Lucia Elementary School, and Arlen Espinoza, a para-educator for the district, were named Monterey County’s 2018 Teacher of the Year and 2017 Classified School Employee of the Year, respectively.

City hosts first Freedom Gala

Through a partnership with Fort Hunter Liggett, King City hosted the inaugural Freedom Gala to celebrate the U.S. Army’s 242nd birthday while raising money for military families and a local program to end youth violence.

The City of King, King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and Salinas Valley Fairgrounds joined together with Fort Hunter Liggett to organize the formal event, with the intention of building a stronger connection between the Army fort and King City.

King City joins Pinnacles partners

The City of King is showing its support of Pinnacles National Park by joining the Pinnacles Gateway Partners, a partnership with neighboring cities to help protect the park’s resources and visitor experiences. The partnership’s mission aims to strengthen visitor experiences both at the park and in its gateway communities, in addition to increasing recreation and healthy living opportunities for residents.

YMCA comes to King City

South County YMCA will provide a youth soccer league program for the first time in King City this fall, following the city council’s approval of a contract with the nonprofit organization.

South County YMCA, a branch of the Central Coast YMCA, also offers programs in Soledad, Gonzales and Greenfield.



Chamber seeks donations after break-in

A pair of thieves made off with an undetermined amount of fireworks worth thousands of dollars from the King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, and now donations are being sought from the community to help the organization recoup that loss and pay for the aerial fireworks show.

Sales from both fireworks stands help cover expenses associated with the chamber’s display, which costs $17,000 to $18,000 to put on for the community every Fourth of July.

Western Growers honors local agricultural pioneer

Western Growers honored David Gill of King City, who has become one of the agricultural industry’s most distinguished pioneers, with the 2017 Award of Honor. The Award of Honor is Western Growers’ highest recognition of industry achievement and is given to individuals who have contributed extensively to the agricultural community.

Change of Command

Col. Kerry E. Norman has taken charge of the largest Army Reserve installation and the seventh largest post in the nation, becoming Fort Hunter Liggett’s newest garrison commander.

Norman, who hails from Kirkwood, Mo., was sworn in during a Change of Command ceremony at the Fort Hunter Liggett track and field facility. She takes over the post of outgoing commander, Col. Jan C. Norris, who had assumed the commander duties since July 2015.

Coulson crowned 2017 Miss California Rodeo Salinas

Former Miss Salinas Valley Fair Lena Coulson was crowned 2017 Miss California Rodeo Salinas, and will represent California Rodeo Salinas at various events around the state over the next year.

Coulson, who earned the title of Miss Salinas Valley Fair 2016 in King City, is a resident of the Salinas Valley.

His final picture

After 35 years of photographing hundreds of thousands of people in South County, King City Photo Center and Custom Framing owner Alex Arce hung up his camera at the end of the month to enter retirement life.

Arce, who has owned the Photo Center since 1982, estimates that he has snapped photos of more than 300,000 people in the community for portraits, weddings, school sports, passports and special events.

New bins combat opioid epidemic

New bins for unwanted or expired prescription medications have been installed at the King City, Greenfield and Gonzales police departments, providing a way for residents to properly dispose of these drugs before they fall into the wrong hands.

The drug take-back bins are funded through a grant with the help from Drs. Casey Grover and Reb Close, emergency care physicians from Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. The husband-and-wife duo are part of the Monterey County Prescribe Safe Initiative, which offers resources to help prevent prescription drug abuse, and partnered with Sun Street Centers and other organizations to bring these bins to South County.



County reopens victim center for South County

Monterey County District Attorney’s Office has reopened the South County Victim Services Office, located in the newly refurbished courthouse building at 250 Franciscan Way in King City.

The victim center increases accessibility for South County residents who lost services in 2008 when the Monterey County Courts King City Division closed due to financial reasons. It focuses on trauma-informed services and treatment for children and youth victims of crime.

King City completes first Measure X project

King City celebrated the completion of the first “Measure X Project” in Monterey County with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the corner of Vivian Street and Haven Drive, hosted by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County.

King City is the first city in the county to use funds from Measure X — the 3/8-percent sales tax approved by voters last November — to fix local roads by repaving five residential blocks within the city.

Forden Park debuts with new playground equipment

Dozens of children waited in line not only to receive a free candy medal, but also to enter King City’s newest park now stocked with playground equipment.

More than 100 community members attended the grand opening of Forden Park, located on Canal Street between Rio Vista and Forden drives. After more than a year in development and raising funds through the Fun’ds for Forden Committee, the play structures were finally ready for the youngsters.



Chamber hires new manager

Longtime resident Janet Bessemer has been hired to take over the reins of the King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture as its new chamber manager.

Bessemer has lived in the King City area for almost 30 years with her husband Brian. She takes over the position from Brandi Schmidt-Garza, who left the job earlier this year.

Ag teacher earns national recognition

King City High School agriculture teacher Lauren Peterson has been named this year’s Region 1 winner of the National Association of Agricultural Educators’ Outstanding Young Member Award, which recognizes agriculture teachers nationwide for their exceptional civic and professional leadership.

Peterson, 30, a member of the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, has been teaching agriculture at King City High for the past four years.

City installs new LED streetlights

City streets will soon look a little brighter now that King City has partnered with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to install more than 100 new streetlights around town to enhance public safety and save energy.

City of King and PG&E officials gathered to mark the beginning of the city’s streetlight expansion project with the installation of the first new LED streetlight at 428 N. Second St. A total of 110 new streetlights will be installed on existing utility poles over the next couple months.

County supervisors support Dreamers

Monterey County has been declared a “Dreamers County,” one of the first counties in the nation to enact a resolution supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants a temporary reprieve from deportation for so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants who were brought into the country as children by their parents.

City begins installation of security cameras

The City of King is moving forward with the installation of a citywide police security camera system following the finalization of an agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

The city contracted with SurveillanceGRID Integration Inc. in February to install 15 security cameras at key locations around town. The project, however, was delayed as some of the cameras will be installed on utility poles, which required approval from PG&E.



Celebration of a century

Nearly 250 guests recently took a journey back in time to tour the properties owned by Salinas Land Co. and California Orchard Co. — located between King City and Greenfield — in celebration of the companies’ 100th anniversary and their profound impact on agriculture in the Salinas Valley.

Board members, growers, dignitaries and invited guests gathered in the Los Ositos Vineyards to commemorate the significant milestone of these two companies based outside of King City.

King City in bloom

King City earned a 3 out of 5 bloom rating and was specially recognized for its heritage preservation at the 2017 America in Bloom National Awards Program.

The city was evaluated on six criteria: overall impression, environmental awareness, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscaped areas and floral displays.

As a first-time participant, King City received a 3-bloom rating out of a possible five blooms as well as special recognition for its heritage preservation. The city also received a special award, “Most Environmentally-Friendly Landscape Practices.”

City council supports Dreamers

The City of King has officially expressed its support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

King City Council unanimously approved a letter endorsing the program, and in doing so, becomes the third city in Monterey County to officially declare its support; the cities of Greenfield and Soledad recently passed resolutions supporting DACA.



King City selected as host city for 2018 Amgen Tour

For the first time, King City has been selected as a host city for the May 15 stage race start of the 2018 Amgen Tour of California, an annual professional cycling event featuring the world’s best cyclists competing along a course that traverses hundreds of miles of the state’s roadways.

Presented by AEG, the 2018 tour welcomes 11 host cities across the state for the 13th edition of America’s premier cycling stage race May 13-19. The race start for the May 15 stage takes place in downtown King City in the 200 and 300 blocks of Broadway Street, providing an opportunity for residents to view professional athletes up close.

Gills honored for philanthropic leadership

Community service and giving are homegrown for Susan and David Gill of King City — the Community Foundation for Monterey County (CFMC)’s 2017 Distinguished Trustee Award recipients. The award, presented at the CFMC’s annual Celebration of Philanthropy at Corral de Tierra Country Club, honors those who have demonstrated philanthropic leadership in supporting nonprofits in Monterey County.

South County resident named Veteran of the Year

King City resident Charles DeSchepper was recently named Veteran of the Year for 2017 by the Monterey County Military and Veterans Affairs Office Advisory Commission, which honored him at the annual ceremonial dinner in Monterey.

DeSchepper, 70, is a Vietnam War veteran who grew up in Iowa. He is a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Sgt. Frank Lillard Post 6747, American Legion and the Elks Club.

King City, Greenfield police unite to take on major crimes

King City and Greenfield police departments are joining forces to investigate major crimes in both jurisdictions through a collaborative unit established by the cities to pool resources and solve these cases, with the intent of bringing offenders to justice more swiftly.

King City Council and Greenfield City Council both approved the memorandum of understanding between the two cities for a Major Crimes Unit, which will combine resources and personnel from both police departments.



County Supervisor Salinas to retire

Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas announced that he will retire from office in early 2019 after his current term expires, ending a nearly three-decade career in public office.

Salinas, 61, is throwing his support behind his chief of staff — and South County native — Chris Lopez to succeed him for the District 3 position, the largest supervisorial district that encompasses part of Salinas and all of South County.

The open seat will be up for election next year.

Country Christmas

Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum, better known as MCARLM, recently hosted its 10th Annual Holiday Open House, opening its doors for the public to explore the museum while enjoying homemade soups and eating holiday treats.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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